Smithsburg, Maryland (May 6, 2015): The 100th Maryland farm to be certified for achieving the highest level of environmental stewardship was recognized May 6th a ceremony outside Smithsburg, Md.
Gardenhour Orchards, operated by Bill Gardenhour and his family, received the Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program (FSCAP) certificate and sign from the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts. The organization established FSCAP in cooperation with many partners, to recognize those farmers who are good stewards of their natural resources and to encourage and reward farmers to put more conservation-related best management practices (BMPs) on their land.
The Maryland Soybean Board and United Soybean Board both support the FSCAP program with soybean checkoff funds.
The Gardenhours are the fourth generation of to operate the orchard, which encompasses 105 acres within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In their market and pick-your-own orchards and field, they offer apples, peaches, corn, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.
Elmer Weibley, Washington County Soil Conservation District manager, noted that the first FSCAP farm and the 100th FSCAP farm share something in common. “I’m proud to see that Washington County is home to not just the first and 100th farm, but also 22 other farms in between,” he said. “All FSCAP-certified farmers use a suite of BMPs on their farm to reduce or eliminate erosion and nutrient loss.”
Also speaking at the presentation were partner representatives Dr. Terron Hillsman, Maryland State Conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Valerie Connelly, Executive Director of the Maryland Farm Bureau, Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), Joe Bartenfelder, Maryland Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Leigh, Director of Programs and Partnerships with the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Linda Burrier, United Soybean Board Member, Lynne Hoot, Executive Director of the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts, and Steven Ernst, the first FSCAP steward and Maryland Grain Producers Board Member.
Secretary of Agriculture, Joe Bartenfelder expressed how honored he is to be the Secretary of Agriculture in a state that values conservation. “The Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program is not only a way to recognize those who are already doing a great job but also encourage farmers to install more best management practices,” Bartenfelder stated. “Maryland agriculture is making progress towards our 2025 Bay clean-up goals and programs like this one will continue to help accelerate that progress,” he continued.
Linda Burrier, a farmer from Union Bridge, Md., and a director on both the Maryland Soybean Board and United Soybean Board, congratulated the Gardenhours. “Conserving our air, land and water resources is important to all farmers,” she said. “Since 1980, U.S. farmers have increased the adoption of conservation tillage methods by 143 million acres. More than 70 percent of soybean farmers practice some form of conservation tillage every production cycle. Irrigated water use per bushel of soybeans has dropped by over 40 percent since 1980. Continuous improvement is a way of life for family farmers, whether we’re growing row crops or fruit trees. It’s an ethic that we share.”
MASCD represents the 24 soil conservation districts (SCDs) which are political sub-divisions of the state charged with delivery of federal, state, and county natural resource conservation program delivery at the local level. The soil conservation districts work with agricultural landowners, developers, and homeowners to identify pollution problems and to design and implement corrective measures.
About Maryland Soybean Board: The Maryland Soybean Board administers soybean checkoff funds for soybean research, marketing and education programs in the state. One-half of the checkoff funds stay in Maryland for programs; the other half is sent to the United Soybean Board. To learn more about the Maryland Soybean Board, visit www.www.mdsoy.com.
More information on the FSCAP certification process can be obtained at www.mascd.net or by contacting Lynne Hoot, 410-956-5771.